THE EXTINCT FOUR

Featuring a cast of extinct animals, a series of artists' books with a distinct nod towards Agatha Christie, created for and exhibited as part of Ex Libris at RMIT, and later shown as part of Dervish (2006), Fictions (2008) at MUMA, and Interconnections: Books, Text, Art (2014) at the University of Melbourne's Baillieu Library. Editions of these books are in the collections of the State Library of New South Wales, the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne University Library, Monash University Library, and the National Gallery of Australia (formerly as part of the Ergas Collection).

 

Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
The Case of the Lost Aviary
2005
Artists' book, single color lithographic offset print hand-colored with pencil, pen, fluorescent marker and collage on Aquarelle Arches 100% pure cotton hot pressed 300gsm paper
18cm X 14cm four page concertina, bound in cotton by the artists, with engraved mirrored perspex discs on the cover
Printed by Redwood Prints
Edition of 16

 
 

Kioea
Last seen: 1859
Distribution: Hawaii and Oahu, Hawaiian Islands

Passenger Pigeon
Last seen (in captivity): 1pm, 1 September, 1914
Distribution: Eastern North America

Robust White-eye
Last seen: about 1918
Distribution: Lord Howe Island, Australia

 

Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
By the Pricking of My Claws
2005
Artists' book
Single color lithographic offset print hand-colored with pencil, pen and collage on Aquarelle Arches 100% pure cotton hot pressed 300gsm paper
18cm X 18cm eight page concertina, bound in cotton by the artists, with engraved mirrored perspex discs on the cover
Printed by Redwood Prints
Edition of 16

 
 

White-footed Rabbit-rat
Last seen: 1845
Distribution: South Eastern Australia

Bavarian pine-vole
Rediscovered: 2000, Northern Tyrol, Austria, after an absence of 38 years

Bulldog rat
Last seen: about 1903
Distribution: Christmas Island, Indian Ocean

Ivory-billed woodpecker
Rediscovered: 2004, in the Big Woods of Eastern Arkansas, United States of America, after an absence of 60 years

Lesser stick-nest rat
Last seen: afternoon 18th July 1933
Distribution: Southern inland Australia

Pig-footed bandicoot
Last seen: 1901
Distribution: inland Australia

 

Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
The Dubious Clue
(also published under the title, Extinct Animals Sing the Blues)
2005
Artists’ book single color lithographic offset print hand colored with pencil, pen, fluorescent marker and collage on Aquarelle Arches 100% pure cotton hot pressed 300gsm paper
18cm X 14cm eight page concertina, bound in cotton by the artists, with engraved mirrored perspex discs on the cover
Printed by Redwood Prints
Edition of 16

 
 

Big-eared Hopping-mouse
Last seen: 19th July 1843
Distribution: Moore river area, South Western Australia

Ilin Island Cloudrunner
Last seen: 4th April 1953
Distribution: Ilin Island, Philippines

Little Swan Island Hutia
Last seen: 1955
Distribution: South Little Swan Island, off North Eastern Honduras, Caribbean

Mamo
Last seen: July 1898
Distribution: Hawaii, Hawaiian Islands

Pink-headed Duck
Last seen: about 1936
Distribution: floodplains of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, India

White-footed Rabbit-rat
Last seen: 1845
Distribution: South Eastern Australia

 

Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison
Trouble at Sea
2005
Artists' book single color lithographic offset print hand colored with pencil, pen and collage on Aquarelle Arches 100% pure cotton hot pressed 300gsm paper
18cm X 18cm four page concertina, bound in cotton by the artists, with engraved mirrored perspex discs on the cover
Printed by Redwood Prints
Edition of 16

 
 

Pemberton's Deer-mouse
Last seen: 26 December 1931
Distribution: San Pedro Noalsco Island, Gulf of California

Martinique Giant Rice-rat
Last seen: 1902
Distribution: Martinique, Caribbean

St Lucy Giant Rice-rat
Last seen: 1852
Distribution: Santa Lucia, Caribbean

 

TALL TALES AND ANTIPODEAN ADVENTURES: narratives in contemporary Australian printmaking

 

Jazmina Cininas
Imprint magazine
volume 41, number 2, winter 2006


The collaborative team of Gracia Haby & Louise Jennison,[11] who have made the artist's book their signature medium, also reserve their leading roles for extinct species. Their heroes' adventures have a decidedly Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn flavour, even if the rumours of their deaths have not been exaggerated. Pink-headed Ducks, Giant Rice-rats and Bavarian Pine-voles sport prison stripes and plan jail breaks in order to go fishing amongst desert cacti, while Robust White-eyes play cards and Passenger Pigeons, drunk on alcohol soaked grain,[12] attempt to hatch European Sea Urchins.

The Agatha Christie inspired titles — The Case of the Lost Aviary, Trouble at Sea, The Dubious Clue, By the Pricking of My Claws — acknowledge Haby & Jennison's penchant for amateur detective work. Unearthing incriminating evidence against commercial hunters, volcanoes and ship-jumping black rats,[13] the artists conjure new, pseudo-scientific scenarios, their slippery approach to facts unfolding in whimsical narratives that operate according to their own logic. The artists take liberties with the argument that 'narrative metaphors are an indispensable part of all 'factual' discourse, whether in history or in science',[14] and wink at the commonly acknowledged notion that the historian's work is partly scientific, partly artistic.[15]

Haby & Jennison's truth is, by necessity, a fabrication, the species themselves being lost for all time, at best leaving only fragmentary data from which to glean information. Their Pig-Footed Bandicoots, Deer Mice and Bulldog Rats are as fanciful as their names suggest, precariously balancing sailing boats for headgear or fossils as body parts. As barely intact as the last remaining specimen of the St Lucy Giant Rice-rat, they threaten to fall apart at the merest touch. Extinct Cloud Runners and White-footed Rabbit-rats croon their woes along with Memphis Slim, drawing on another vehicle rich in narrative history, the blues lyric.

...

The printing process, as both a technical and artistic activity, has been linked not only to the memory of human thought, but also to the memorial process. Prints, in their various guises and mediums, have played a pivotal role in recording the stories of our past, and continue to document possibilities of what might yet become. The best narrative printmakers employ printmaking's intrinsic properties and illustrative traditions to create new fictions and expose new truths about ourselves, celebrating the invention inherent in all knowledge, in all history.

An extract from Imprint by Jazmina Cininas
IMPRINT magazine
2006

[11] Much of the following discussion of Haby & Jennison's work is essentially a reworking of my earlier catalogue essay for Ex Libris at RMIT Project Space, 2005.
[12] This was used by trappers to make the birds easier to catch. See below.
[13] Information on the passenger pigeon and the rats was supplied to the author by the artists, October 2005, citing Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World, Penguin Books, 1992 and Tim Flannery & Peter Schouten, A Gap in Nature Discovering the World's Extinct Animals, Text Publishing Australia, 2001.
[14] Donald N. McCloskey, cited in G.Thomas Tanselle, Printing History and Other History, Studies in Bibliography, Volume 48, 1995.
[15] See G. M. Trevelyan, cited in ibid.

 

Ex Libris
Monday 28th November – Friday 16th of December, 2005
RMIT Project Space, 23–27 Cardigan Street, Carlton

Related links,
Ex Libris catalogue essay by Jazmina Cininas
AND THE SILENTLY STEAL AWAY, PRINT CREATED FOR EX LIBRIS
For Martha, an artists' book by Louise Jennison, 2011–2012

Related post,
Once, twice, tagged